The NFL season is only three weeks old, but the Kansas City Chiefs are the hottest team in the league, and the most hyped, thanks to the skyrocketing stardom of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Commentator Victor Wishna goes along for the ride, in this month’s edition of 'A Fan’s Notes.'
Dan Rice was the most famous circus clown in America when he ran for president back in 1868. He campaigned from town to town in a horse-drawn coach with a live brass orchestra. The buoyant oom-pah-pah music drew such large crowds that other politicos started asking if they, too, could jump on his bandwagon. And a cliché was born.
I mention this because right now in Kansas City, there’s a lot of talk about the biggest bandwagon in sports. The 3-0 Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL and quarterback sensation Patrick Mahomes is already a candidate for MVP.
Yes, it’s only been a few weeks, but Mahomes has thrown more touchdown passes in the first three games of a season than any quarterback in league history. On Sunday, his Chiefs reached the end zone on every one of their first five drives for the first time ever. And they have already scored more points than in all of last season.
OK, I made that last one up — but the fact that it sounded remotely plausible for even half a second gives you a sense of all the hype.
Yet there’s also a bit of hesitation. It has only been three games. And nothing makes some sports fans, especially Chiefs fans, more dubious than high hopes. As one friend put it, just before this weekend’s home opener at Arrowhead, “You’re not jumping on the Mahomes bandwagon, are you?”
After all, what goes up must come down hard, right? You only need to look back to last year for an excruciating example. Or the year before that. And this team, too, has its glaring weaknesses. Like, uh, the defense.
We’ve seen too many happy stories end in heartbreak.
But one thing we have never seen here happened Sunday with nine minutes left in the first half. Mahomes dropped back, then way back as he tripped and stumbled and scrambled away from defenders, sideline-to-sideline, until, finally, off balance, on one foot, he laced a line-drive to wide-open receiver Chris Conley in the corner of the end zone. It was perhaps the most exciting four-yard pass I have ever witnessed.
Yes, bandwagons are suspect. The cliché is meant as a caution. In life, in politics, latching onto something just because it seems popular is often unwise or at least unprincipled.
But in sports, hitching your wagon to a winner — to mismatch a metaphor — is sort of the whole point. It’s a healthy outlet for optimistic allegiance, a safe space for slogans. On game day, groupthink is a good thing. And it’s OK to elevate an individual to cult status, to flaunt that number 15 jersey, to stroll around town in that “Patrick is Ma’homie” T-shirt.
Mahomes himself, who just turned 23 last week, seems like a good guy, as modest as can be expected from a kid who is the newest face of the world’s biggest sports league. Sure, everybody loves an underdog, but sometimes it’s nice to wish upon the brightest star.
And maybe I just see a chance for the Chiefs to finally go all the way, and win the Super Bowl for the first time in my lifetime. And maybe then I can quit the NFL, and with it my sense of complicity in all its dramas and traumas.
Whatever the reason, for as far as this wagon goes, I’m proudly on board. And hey: There’s room for everyone.
Victor Wishna is a writer, editor and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.